22 November, 2009

A weekend in Champagne

Last weekend we took a trip to Reims and Epernay in the Champagne region of France. I can't believe we have not visited Champagne before as it is just over 2 hours from where we live in Luxembourg and an easy trip to make from Saturday to Sunday.

Paula and I traveled down with a few friends (Jen, Gilbert, Keil, Nora and Kristal) and we visisted 3 Champagne houses on Saturday in Reims and then another 2 on Sunday afternoon in Epernay before driving back to Luxembourg.

Check out some pix from our trip....

26 October, 2009

Brassigaume Beer Festival in Belgium

The weekend of 17 and 18 October was the 9th edition of the Brassigaume beer festival, a great gathering of some regional brewers from the Luxembourg province of Belgium but also beyond this area including some UK beers and a good number of craft beers from Italy. Paula and I attended the festival last year and had to go back this year.

The festival is held each year in Marbehan, Belgium which is conveiniently located only 5 minutes walk from a train stop less then 30 minutes from Luxembourg!

We arrived late in the afternoon on Saturday the 17th and quickly had a beer glass in our hands and some wooden tokens to purchase samples. The entrance fee was only €3 per person including your glass and samples (about 15 cl each) were only €1.40 each.

Over the course of the next 4 hours or so we had several nice samples including some from Belgium (La Rulles, Sainte Hélène, Val Dieu, Brasserie de Cazeau), some from the UK (Brasserie Great Heck and Tiger Top) and some from Italy (Birra del Borgo, Brasserie Panil and Birra Orso Verde). I think our favorites of the night were a few from Birra del Borgo as they had an interesting porter with tobacco, an ale blended with Cantillon Lambic (how can you go wrong there?) and another lambic-ish beer with peaches.

We also spend a good deal of time chatting with old friends and new friends. I ran into 3 Belgian friends from work, a few beer friends from the UK, another American living in Luxembourg that I met at Mi-Orge Mi-Houblon just a few weeks earlier, a few American G.I.'s stationed in Italy that just happened to be Phillies fans. We also spent a bit of time talking to our friend Chris that is the owner of the great beer store Mi-Orge Mi-Houblon. Chris is a man of many hats. In addition to running a beer shop, he is also a school teacher, a sometime brewer and he also is heavily involved in the planning for Brassigaume it seems. Chris has a min-store setup at this festival so between selling beer, we talked about beer and tasted beer! He was kind enough to invite Paula and I to try a few very interesting lambic blends made by a Germany guy who attended the festival. All of his blends were very interesting and gave me some thoughts for my own lambic blending project that is in process.

All in all, another successful beer festival in Belgium and we were home before midnight to boot.

04 October, 2009

Travels through Belgium, Luxembourg and Scandanavia With Family

It may have been over 2 and 1/2 years from the original time we had planned it, but my cousin Keith, his fiancé Suzanne, and Paula and I finally made our trip together through Belgium on a beer hunting mission. We started off on Tuesday, September 22, when Keith and Suzanne arrived in Brussels and we quickly wisked them off to Brugge and the surrounding countryside.

Brugge
Our first destination near Brugge, after a quick stop in the town of Roeselare for lunch, we were off to a personal visit to the new Struise brewery in an old school. Upon arrival at the brewery, we were greeted by Urbain and his great hospitality. He treated us to several of his cutting edge beers and a tour of the current setup of the brewery and what is to come.

After leaving struise we were off to Brugge and a cute little B&B we had stayed at before, just a few blocks from a working old windmill. Once we checked in we headed out into the city for some site seeing and then dinner at Erasmus, one of the best restaurants in Belgium. Erasmus is known for their excellent food and equally excellent beer list. After dinner, Paula and Suzanne headed back to the B&B and Keith and I made our way to two different beer bars..the famous Brugs Beertje and then a cool little cellar bar, Poatersgat.
After a day and night in Brugge, we were planning to spend Wednesday the 23rd in Antwerp, Belgium but we had a few stops along the way. First, we had a 10 am tour appointment at Rodenbach to roam around the massive wood foeders where they age their fantastically tart Rodenbach Red and Grand Cru beers. Although we had joined a tour of Dutch senior citizens, it was alot of fun to just roam around this historic brewery and to get two samples at the end of the tour.
After the tour, we were looking for lunch and had one place in mind, De Zalm in Roeselare, just a few blocks from Rodenbach. Besides having a nice lunch menu, De Zalm is most well known for serving on handpump the very rare Rodenbach foederbier which is Rodenbach straight from the wooden foeders so it is completely flat and very sharp and sour.
Once we had filled our stomachs with some good Belgian lunch food, we were back on the road and how heading in the direction of Picobrouwerij Alvinne Heule, Belgium. Alvinne is run by brewers Glenn and Davy who are both great guys that happen to make some wonderful beers. Paula and I have visited Alvinne on a few occasions in the past year and have enjoyed their beer offering, their great beer store and their hospitality. This day we were heading to Alvinne for a visit with Glenn and Davy and some shopping. Glenn and Davy were gracious enough to let us come in for a tasting that included 4 different versions of their Melchior beer including: regular Melchior, calvados barrel aged, bourgogne barrel aged and bourbon barrel aged. Having all 4 of these wonderful beers side by side make the differences due to the different barrels come out really well.

18 September, 2009

Can I Blend a Lambic in Luxembourg?


That is the question I have been asking myself for nearly 2 years! Luxembourg is a wonderful country in its own right and with the close proximity to Belgium and all the wonderful beer that country has to offer, I can't really complain. Not too much at least. Luxembourg does lack a bit in the beer department, especially when it comes to my favorite beer style...lambic.

Earlier this year I read online that you are able to visit certain lambic brewers in the Payottenland outside of Brussels and purchase jugs of lambic straight from the barrel..no bottles. A few months back Paula and I made a day trip up to the Girardin brewery outside of Brussels and purchased a 10 litre jug of their young (jonge) lambic straight from the barrel! We brought it to a party that evening and had it to drink in our apartment for several night and it was a hit! Fresh, tasteful, yet inexpensive.

This got me thinking...if I could purchase one jug of lambic from one brewery, could I purchase several jugs and "blend" my own gueuze or fruit lambic? Of course this experiment would be for fun and informational purposes only as what I would be don't is not brewing.

Fast forward to a recent weekend in September and Paula and I decided we needed to make another trip to Brussels and to spend the night. Aside from visiting some of our favorite bars and sites, we also stopped at 3 lambic brewers on our way into Brussels.

Our first stop was to Lindeman's, the lambic brewer that people are probably most familiar with due to the huge success they have selling their framboise, kriek and other lambics in the U.S. and around the world but those fruit lambics are usually sweetened with syrup and not real fruit like more traditional brewers do (see Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen). Lindeman's does however brew their lambic in the traditional method with spontaneous fermentation and they do sell this lambic directly from the brewery if you ask nicely. We showed up on this Saturday and it took about 20 minutes to find someone to help me. I wandered around the warehouse with crates and crates and kegs and kegs of their beer everywhere, destined for various parts of the world. I finally got the attention of a worker who was cleaning the brewhouse and he took my plastic jug and dissappeared behind some huge tanks and came out about 10 minutes later with my jug full of 10 litres of jonge lambic. After paying the equivalent of about $18 (what a steal for what amounts to about 13 wine sized bottles of lambic) we were off to our 2nd destination.....

...Girardin. We returned to this great little brewery to claim our second jug of lambic or to refill our first jug I should say. This time we got a 10 litre fill of their old (oude) lambic as I wanted something older to help with the blending of a gueuze. We were in and out in 10 minutes and on the road into Brussels and to our 3rd and final destination.....

...Cantillon! My favorite of all lambic brewers and probably my first or second favorite brewer of any kind. We had visited on several occasions before and have become friendly with the brewer Jean. I arranged ahead of time to pickup a 5 litre "bag in a box" of their lambic. It was a real treat for me knowing that I could get a box of Cantillon to take home. Before we left Cantillon we sat down for a complimentary glass of Rosé de Gambrinus! What a great way to start our day in Brussels.

After spending the rest of this fine day and night in Brussels, we were back in Luxembourg on Sunday before 5pm or so and then it was on to the task of trying to blend my beer purchases and how to blend these 3 different vessels of beer without having alot of extra containers to blend into. I took out a pen and pad of paper and a number of tasting glasses and I was off. First I was looking for a solid blend of all 3 beers for my "Luxembourg gueuze". I settled on a blend that included approximately 6 parts oude lambic from Girardin, 3 parts Cantillon lambic and 1 part Lindeman's. I next moved onto the idea of a 10 litre jug of a blend to be used as a fruit lambic. This blend was mainly Linedman's with a few litres of Girardin and a touch of Cantillon.

What did I do with the remaining 5 litres or so of beer that did not fit into the 2 jugs containing 10 litres each of my blends? Well I put some of it in a ceramic Cantillon pitcher we have and th rest in some plastic cereal containers to store in the fridge and to drink over the course of the next few nights.
On Monday I purchased 16 packages of fresh Belgian raspberries and blanched them and then added to the blend I made for this fruit lambic. What a sweet, sweet and messy process but boy did it smell amazing. Most of the fruit fit in but I had to drain some and drink it to make room for the full 16 packages. We tasted the beers we had to drain from the jug and it already had a slight pinkish color an taste of raspberries. I put both jugs in little coolers and put them down in our cave to age.

A few days later I went to check on them and noticed that the framboise blended was fermenting again due to the addition of over 1.5 kgs of raspberries! I was amazed. Over the next few weeks and months I will take samples of each blend to see how they are doing and when they are ready to be bottled. More updates on that to come in the future!

In the meantime, check out some pictures from our adventures....

13 August, 2009

Ed's Wedding and Family Visiting!

Paula and I made our first trip home since Christmas to take part in Ed and Kelli's wonderful wedding on Friday, August 7th. Paula and I were both part of the wedding party and we had a great time. In addition to taking part in the special day, we also got a chance to catch up with pretty much all of our family which was great.

Check out pictures from our great weekend!

Ed's Bachelor Party at the Belgium Comes to Cooperstown Beerfestival

For Ed's bachelor party we took in the Belgium Comes to Cooperstown beer festival at the Ommegang Brewery. We camped over Saturday night and aside from the 4 hour festival, we visited friends at several different campsites throughout the huge Ommegang farm and drank wonderful beers from the U.S. and Belgium.

A Weekend in Ireland with U2 and a Few Pubs!

Luxembourg Beer Festival at the Cactus Supermarket

DMB at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland

For the 4th of July weekend we took a trip down south to Switzerland to make our first visit to Zurich and to also take in a Dave Matthews Band concert at the Montreux Jazz Festival which was right on Lake Geneva.

A Long Weekend in London to See DMB

After dropping Paula's Mom and Melissa off at the Luxembourg airport for their return to the U.S., we were off on a flight of our own from Frankfurt to London, England! We planned a nice weekend to do some site seeing, take in 2 Dave Matthews Band concerts and visit with some friends in London!

A Visit From Paula's Mom and Cousin

Near my birthday in June (June 22nd for those that don't know) we got a visit from Paula's Mom and her cousin Melissa and we made the most of it by traveling to Brugge, Belgium and throughout Luxembourg and neighboring Trier, Germany.

More Posts Coming Soon!

I can't believe it has been two months since our last post. That does not mean that we have not been busy during those two month. It has actually been the complete opposite! From early June until now we have traveled to London, Switzerland, Belgium, Ireland and back home to the good ol' U.S. of A.! On these trips we have pub crawled through London and Ireland, seen the Dave Matthews Band 3 times and U2 once and best of all got to visit with family and friends back in the U.S. and got to see my brother get married!

As this coming weekend is a holiday weekend in Luxembourg and this part of Europe, most things will be closed and I will have more time to post pictures and interesting words about our travels!

08 June, 2009

2009 Tour de Luxembourg




This week the Tour de Luxembourg was held throughout the Grand Duchy this week and the final stage ended with a few rounds of a very hilly course in the Clausen section of Luxembourg City. The race consisted of 15 international teams with the 2 main riders from the Saxo Bank team, Frank and Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, who are national heros around these parts! Paula and I showed up about 2 hours early to get something to eat and drink and to take in the sites and sounds of yet another cool event in Luxembourg. We planted ourselves about 50 yards from the finish where we had a great view of the riders as they were crossing the finish line.


The crowd was crazy each time the riders came around the course and especially when Frank Schleck won the overall Tour!

01 June, 2009

A weekend in Burgundy


Soon to come, pictures from our recent weekend in the Burgundy wine region of France where we had much great wine and great food...like snails!




17 May, 2009

The Ølfestival in Copenhagen, Denmark

This weekend was the Ølfestival (Danish beer festival) in Copenhagen. The fest is not just for Danish beers though, they had beers from the U.S., Italy, Sweden, Germany, England, Belgium along with Danish beers of course and probably a few other countries I am forgetting. All totaled there were probably over 1,000 beers and it had to be if not the best, probably the second best beer festival I have ever been to. The Danes really know how to run an efficient festival and make it a fun experience. There was not much in the line of drunk frat boys roaming around screaming and dropping their glasses like we get at fest in the U.S. Ok..there was a little of that but not much!


I had not planned in advance to go to the festival but after finding a pretty cheap flight from Brussels and a tiny and inexpensive hotel in Copenhagen, I was off on my own to the fest. My flight left Brussels at 7 am so I was up and out of the apartment a little after 3 am on the road to Brussels. The drive is very quick when there is hardly any road traffic. A short 1 and 1/2 hour flight and I was in Copenhagen. Another 10 minute train ride from the airport and I was in the center of town.


After checking into the hotel, I was off on a little shopping mission. When Paula and I visited Copenhagen back in August she fell in love with some cool rubber Scandanavian boots called Viking boots but she did not buy them and has regretted it since. We looked online but were not able to find these Viking boots for sale anywhere near us in Luxembourg. So when I decided to go back to Copenhagen for the beerfest, Paula made sure that I would look for these elusive boots. I did and I found them and brought home 2 pairs for her and I got 1 pair for me for good measure!


The festival started at 2pm on Friday but before heading there I had to make a shopping stop of my own at one of the best beer stores in the world, Olbutikken, run by the brother of the brewer at Mikkeller in Denmark. I had a bag full of beer I brought over from Luxembourg to trade with the owner Jeppe so I grabbed one of the free Copenhagen city bikes and peddled myself the mile or so from the hotel to the store. They were set to open up at noon and I figured I would get there a few minutes early but was surpised to find a line of about 20 people deep waiting to get in! I headed to the back of the line to wait out the opening. Once inside it was very tight but I managed to get a nice selection of very hard to get beers and then headed back to the hotel to get ready for the fest.


My hotel was only about 200 yards from the main Copenhagen train station so after a quick walk and a 10 minute train ride I was at the festival location. It was about 3pm on a Friday so the fest was not as crowded as it would be later in the day so I had a good run of the place and whatever I wanted to sample at the time. With the price of admission you get a nice little tasting glass, 10 tokens for samples and a handy little festival guide with descriptions of every beer for sample, all 1,000 or more! Now 99.9% of the descriptions were in Danish which I can't read but at least it said what style each beer was and it also pointed out the times for special keg tappings for limited beers so I made a handy little list of my must have beers.


Over the course of Friday and Saturday I was lucky enough to sample about 56 of the worlds best and most extreme / cutting edge beers, many of which will never be sold in bottles or will not make it the part of Europe where we live or to the U.S.



Check out pictures from my weekend fest trip to Copenhagen



Check out the list of beers that I was lucky enough to sample in Copenhagen

10 May, 2009

Weekend in Brugge



After our time in the Netherlands, we headed up Saturday morning to Brugge. No trip to Belgium or the BeNeLux is complete without a trip to Brugge, the Venice of the North as they say. We roamed around Brugge, along with masses of other tourists, on the hunt for great beer and food and some sites as well. Paula and I just spent the night in Brugge and then part of Sunday afternoon before returning to Luxembourg later on Sunday.

One Day in Delft


After spending 2 days and nights in Utrecht with our friends Andrew and Tracy, Paula and I went with them to Delft, just under 30 minutes from Utrecht. We had a hotel right on a canal and we were off on a nice day wandering around the city, taking in the sites, doing some shopping and eating and drinking of course. Delft is famous for their blue and white tiles and other Delftware as it is called. They also have some nice antique shops to visit.

05 May, 2009

Roaming Around Utrecht and the Countryside with Friends

This past week we were happy to see our friends Andrew and Tracy come to visit us in Luxembourg for a weekend before they head to Liege in Belgium and Amsterdam in the Netherlands, before meeting back up with them a few days later in Utrecht.

They arrived on a Friday in Luxembourg and we stayed in our flat and had a bit of a traditional dinner that we eat in Luxembourg which consisted of amongst other things...sausage and beer! On Saturday we took in some of the sites in Luxembourg City for the better part of the day and then we headed off to Orval in Belgium for lunch and a visit to the abbey. Later that evening we headed back into Luxembourg City for dinner at Mousel Cantine which is a great Luxembourgish restaurant in the Clausen section of the Grund.

After going back to work for Monday and Tuesday, Paula and I packed up the little hatchback and were off to Utrecht, where Andrew and I used to live along with a bunch of other American's and folks from all over the world on a special project. This trip was all pleasure...no work...or at least not that much work. Just a bunch of emails on my Blackberry. We arrived in Utrecht after about 3 and 1/2 hours on the roam and just in time for lunch.

After parking the park and checking into the hotel, we jumped on a train to Bodegraven, a little town about 20 minutes outside of Utrecht to visit a great Dutch brewery called De Molen which just happens to be in an old windmill (molen). We arrived just in time to have lunch and a few beers. As expected, the food and the beer were fantastic and the scenery was cool as well. There were no other patrons in the restaurant at the time so we got great attention from the brewer dude except for when he went out shopping and outside to smoke. After lunch and a few drinks we headed into their small but stacked beer store where I was a kid in a candy store! They have beers from all over the world including their own beers, tons of hard to find Belgian beers, American beers and a nice selection of beers from Scandanavia. I think I purchased something like 12 or more bottles, several big ones but we came prepared with a bottle bag and a backpack.

On the way back to the train we stopped in a bike store and Paula bought a nice set of saddle bags with flowers for her bike back home. Then we jumped on a train for Utrecht and to meet Andrew and Tracy at our hotel.

Check out our pictures from De Molen

After a quick stop at our hotel in Utrecht, Paula and I headed out through town to the main shopping, eating, drinking and general good time area right along the beautiful Oudegracht canal. We were on a mission to find some seats at Cafe Belge which is my favorite bar from the days of hanging out in Utrecht back in 2000. This bar has a great view of the canal and a fantastic Belgian beer selection and is really a locals bars. We arrived and were lucky to find a table right at front with 4 seats for when Andrew and Tracy arrived a bit later. Thanks to newish smoking laws in the Netherlands, the bar was smoke free so we were able to enjoy our beers without the extra taste in the air! Andrew and Tracy arrived maybe an hour later and we had a few more beers before heading off on a little walk down memory lane through the little streets of Utrecht. It was nice to pass by some of the shops, restaurants and bars that we used to frequent in Utrecht.

We were also in the middle of Queen's Night which is a crazy party night before Queen's Day. They were setting up all kinds of stages for dancing and late night partying when we were walking through town looking for a place for dinner. There were also a bunch of boats floating down the canal with partygoers and a few dudes sitting on couches in front of stores, drinking beers. Good party atmosphere. We updated up having dinner on the Oudegracht at Casa Di David which is right on the water. This was one of our favorite restaurants when living in Utrecht a few years back.

More words to come soon....

In the meantime, check out pictures of our Utrecht wandering and pictures from our biking adventures!



video

05 April, 2009

Ten Hours in Brussels



What to do on a nice Spring Saturday? How about a day trip to Brussels. It is only a 3 hour train ride and the weather was going to be pretty nice so we decided to taken an 8:20am train that got us into the center of town at 11:23. We had planned to take a 9:37 pm train back to Luxembourg so that gave us just about 10 hours to roam the streets of Brussels, shopping, eating and have a few nice Belgian beers. We had a nice train ride up including a couple that got on with a beautiful golden retreiver that was very friendly and came up to us a few times to lick us and let us pet her. She eventually went to sleep in the middle of isle and didn't get up much, even when people entered the car and were stepping over her. That is what I love about Europe, the friendliness to pets. Even the train conducter that came to check tickets stepped over the dog and didn't make a big deal about it. We would see a bunch of dogs of varying sizes on our travels through Brussels on this day.

Here is how our day unfolded:



As we had just arrived on time from a 3 hour train ride, we were in need of some refreshments so we headed right down to Morte Subite which was already opened. We entered this huge bar and were greeted by a nearly empty place which was nice, less smokey. We were very pleased to also be greeted by our favorite waiter who was featured on an episode of Three Sheets with Zame Lamprey so we knew it would be a good day. Paula ordered a Mort Subite white lambic and I ordered a MS Gueuze. Both were very nice and refreshing. We later ordered a mixte of cheese and salami...yum. At the same time I ordered another drink, a Mort Subite Faro. Yum as well. While sipping on our drinks and doing some people watching on the street, it was amusing to see a few groups of people come inside the bar to take pictures and just leave..without having a drink. Although we enjoy Mort Subite, we had too many other places to visit so off we were....

..to Delirium Cafe. Delirium is a beer destination as they have reportedly over 2,400 different beers, many from countries or breweries you may have never heard of or would not want to ever try but it is still worth a visit. This bar can get really really busy, noisy and smokey but I really enjoy their selection and checking out all the old beer signs and beer trays throughout the place. When we arrived there were only about 15 or so people in the whole bar so we were able to get a nice table (which is a huge wine barrel standing up) and we quickly dug into the massive been menu and order a 75 cl bottle of Fantome Pissenlit to share. I was very happy to find this beer as it is not usually available and was very fresh tasting for a beer from 2003. A nice afernoon treat. Although there were many more beers to drink, we had to move on....

Our next stop was for a quick lunch at Fritland for some Belgian Frites and some sort of burger hoagie thing. Good food none the less. And then we were on...

...to De la Décasse, a well hidden and more local bar that serves mostly lambic beers from Timmerman's. I had heard good things about this place but have never visited so we gave it a try. It is off a very busy restaurant area but down a non-descript alley that is easy to miss. Upon entering, we realized it was mainly a local spot as there were several families in there enjoying some jugs of lambic and everyone turn their hends when we talked in but we still felt very welcome. There are a good number of old wood tables with a mix of different chairs throughout the place and then a tiny bar in the corner where they serve 3 different lambics from tap and then a few more in bottles. They offer the beers in about 6 different jug sizes from a single serving up to a jug that seems to be about 2 litres or more in size! we order a jug of the Timmerman's Doux lambic from about a 75cl jug which was enough for 2. The beers were served in little tumbler glasses which fit in with the atmosphere of this place. The beer was refreshing and worth a try and the bar was definitely a good visit and we will come back on future trips but we only stayed for this one drink and then we were off again...

...this time to Toone, the bar and marionette theatre right off one of the main shopping streets and not far from Delirium a stretch of touristy restaurants where the waiters stand out from and beg you to come in to eat their cheap food. We always pass up on the offer and head to Toone. Paula was lucky enough to see a marionette show when our friends Heather and Ray came to visit in 2008 but I have yet to see a show. Someday. Toone is down a long alley that opens into a courtyard where there are 5 or so tables but it was a bit chilly so we went inside to one of the 3 or 4 rooms on the ground floor. It was fairly empty so we had no trouble finding a seat and took up the menu to decide what to drink. At about 4:08 pm we got our drinks, a Mort Submite Kriek for Paula and a Vieux Temps for me. Both decent beers. In addition to having some old marionettes hanging on the walls and various posters from some of their shows, we were also in a room that served as the old stage and seating areas for shows but apparently they now have the nightly shows at the top floor of the building which is several flights of stairs up, almost in the attic! Toone also has 2 cats that roam around the place and last time we were here, one came crawled onto Paula's lap and slept there for awhile. This time we saw one of the cats licking itself in the distance but he or she didn't come to talk. We did get a chance to pet the other cat, a black one, on our way out and onto the next destination....

...Delirium Taphouse. I know what you are thinking...back to Delirium again..in the same day? Well this is not exactly the same thing as Delirium Cafe although they are in the same building and owned by the same folks. The Taphouse is on the first floor and the Cafe is in the basement. We were visiting the Taphouse for one reason...they had De Dolle Cosmos Porter on tap. A very special new beers from De Dolle that is not in bottles, only on draft at select locations. We had it at the Zythos beer fest last month and when I found out from a bartender at the Cafe that it was upstairs, we had to come back when the Taphouse was open. Although it was a bit smokey when we got there, we found nice seats at the back of the bar in a new area that was opened up since our last visit. I of course had the Cosmos Porter and Paula had a nice glass of Houblon Chouffe which is one of her favorites. After one drink each we were off for more shopping and then to....

....the Poechenellekelder, a really nice bar right across from the Manneken Pis statue that draws so many crowds of tourists and gawkers. Because of the proximity to one of the most popular destinations in Brussels, the bar gets very busy with folks stopping in to take a look around and have an innocent beer so it is ofen hard to find a seat but since they had the tables out at the terrace in the front, I thought it would be easier to find a seat. When we entered the first floor was completely packed so I quickly headed downstairs where not everyone knows there is seating. I had a couple right on my heels but I was able to find us a cool little table in the basement with a nice view of some beer signs on the walls and a cabinet full of beer books. We each ordered a beer from the draft special list: Paula ordered the Gouden Carolous Hopsinjoor and I ordered an Easter beer, the Slaghmuylder Passbier which was ok but nothing special. Paula's beer is very good and another of her favorites. After that we ordered a treat, a 75 cl bottle to share of the De La Senne Jambe de Bois which is a hoppy tripel beer and one I have been trying to find for several months. It proved to be worth the search for this one! After the Jambe de Bois we moved across to the street to...

....Taverne Manneken Pis which is also busy due to the proximity to the Manneken Pis statue but not as busy and it has a less extensive beer list but still is a charming corner bar. We easily found a table and each had one beer before hitting the road. Paula had a Tripel Karmeliet and I had a new beer, a Hopus, which was a nice hoppy pale ale served in a nice flip top bottle and in a huge glass with a huge head to match!

After these last drinks, we headed to get a waffle for the road, a real waffle, not one with all the creat and chocolate and strawberries on them. just a plain sugar Liege waffle. We packed that away for the train ride home and headed over the Greek area for a chicken pita each for the walk back to the train station for dinner. This is an odd street with a guy standing out in front of each trying to entice you into their restaurants. We went to the least offensive one and got some tastey pitas for the walk! Our train left Brussels at 9:37pm and got us back into Luxembourg at 12:40 am and we were back to the apartment with Molly at about 1am and then off to bed!

02 April, 2009

Concert Going in Europe....

When living in the U.S., Paula and I would see a few concerts a year...usually the Dave Matthews Band or G. Love or Matchbox Twenty or something along those lines. I have personally seem DMB 33 times in my 33 years....Paula has seen them about 8 or 10 times and we have seen U2 once together in the U.S. but we have only seem a few shows so far in while living in Europe.

Our first European show was the Counting Crows in Luxembourg and then this past summer we saw Ben Harper/G. Love / Jack Johnson in London and we actually met Jack Johnson in the park before the show and had a great time.

We this year we are really packing in the concerts! We finally get to see DMB in Europe. About a month ago I heard that DMB was coming to Europe so we found tickets online for a DMB show in Hyde Park in London playing with Bruce Springsteen! The show is sort of a festival in Hyde Park with nearly a days worth of music so we are really looking forward to that. Being in London is great as they speak English which feels good every now and then. Plus we have some nice bars and restaurants to visit so it will be good to be back there.

It just so happens to be that while we are in London for the DMB / Boss London Calling show, DMB is also playing earlier in the weekend at a smaller venue and we found tickets for that as well. The London Calling show is in a huge park so it can probably hold 20 or 30 thousand folks or more but the smaller DMB show can hold maybe 4 or 5 thousand which is nice!

Then next show on our musical tour through Europe is to see....wait for it.........U2 in DUBLIN! I waited and waited for this to happen and finally it came about that U2 announced the dates for their new tour to support the recent album No Line on the Horizon. I managed to get decent seats for the Saturday, 24 July show in Croke Park. It turns out that U2 is playing 3 shows over the weekend in a huge stadium that holds about 80,000 folks and all 3 sold out quickly!!!! We now need to get some flights and a hotel in the city. We are also thinking of taking a day trip to Ballina in County Mayo where my family is originally from. We will see if we have time.

The last show we have booked just came up today. I found out that tickets went on sale for the Montreux Jazz Festival which is right on Lake Geneva in a wonderful location and it turns out that the Dave Matthews Band is playing on the 4th of July so we scooped up 2 tickets today! DMB is playing along with Steely Dan so that is nice as well.

Shortly after I turn the big 3-4....I will have seen DMB 36 times!!! woo hoo...

30 March, 2009

Genève, Switzerland




This past weekend Paula and I took a quick flight to Genève in Switzerland to take in the sites, enjoy tons of fondue, raclette, wine and to buy a few massively expensive watches! Genève is not a place many of our friends have been and it not high on the list of places tourist guides tell you, you should go in Europe or even in Switzerland but it has a ton to offer in the way of history, scenery, shopping, food, wine, etc., so we made a weekend of it.
We arrived early on Friday morning on our one hour Luxair flight, complete with a little breakfast box. That is one of the best things about Luxair. No matter the length of your flight, you get a little breakfast or lunch or dinner and if you travel in the afternoon or evening, you can have wine, beer, cremant, whatever you want. We quickly picked up our bags and too advantage of the free train transportation from the airport to the center or Genève which is only a few miles away. After a 20 minute wait for the train, we were in the center of town in 6 minutes and then after a 1 minute tram ride, we were right outside our hotel. Although we were too early to check into our hotel, we dropped off our bags and started a nice walk into the center of town.
Our hotel was only a few minutes away from the train station so it was very convenient for that but a few minute walk from the real heart of the city but that did not matter, the streets seemed safe (aside from the area we talked through that had more than a few sex shops and hookers walking around) and the weather was good for the most part so we did not mind the walking. Plus they have a very good tram system that was also free with our stay in the hotel so we had transport covered.

Cologne, Germany

A few weekends ago Paula and I took a daytrip to Cologne, Germany to take in the sites and the hometown Kolsch beer and the local cuisine. We had planned to visit for Carnival several weeks back but didn't make it down so this was our first trip to this fine city.

More pictures and words to follow soon....

08 March, 2009

Pre-ZBF Days at Alvinne Brewery


On Thursday and Friday, 5 and 6 March, there was a great little beer festival being held at Picobrouwerij Alvinne that included just under 40 beers from Alvinne, Struise, De Molen and some collaberation beers between then.










A Weekend in Gent, Belgium

This past weekend we made the short 2 and 1/2 trip back to Gent for another weekend (we had previously visited in March of 2008) to visit with friends from the U.S. and England while attending 2 fantastic beer festivals outside of Gent.

01 March, 2009

Why Haven't There Been Many Post Lately?

Maybe you have asked yourself the question, why haven't we made many blog posts lately. Or maybe you haven't....but if you have there is one main reason...we have to work sometimes but have no fear, we have some nice travel plans coming up that should lead to some nice words and pictures in the near future!
Here is what our planning looks like at this point:
March
  • The first full weekend of March, which just happens to be the first weekend of Philly Beer Week, we will try to forget about not being in Philly for this great week+ of events by visiting Picobrouwerij Alvinne in Belgium for a fantastic beer tasting with beers from Alvinne, De Struise and De Molen (from the Netherlands). Glenn the brewer at Alvinne and Urbain from De Struise have put together a fantastic 2 day tasting at Alvinne that leads up to the weekend Zythos beer festival in Belgium. This Pre-ZBF festival will have approximately 30 wonderful and rare beers from these brewers and some fancing sounding food as well. We also plan to visit both days of the Zythos beer festival for a period of time to see some friends and sample some nice Belgian beers. We will spend the weekend in the city of Ghent, which is a less traveled city that Brugge or Brussels it seems but has just as much charm and is a bit Dutchy with the canals and all so that is good as well.
  • The last weekend of March we found cheap flights from Luxembourg to Geneva, Switzerland so we are going in search of Swiss watches and Army knives!

April

  • We originally planned a trip in April to Dublin and parts of the Irish countryside including County Mayo where there is a Gaughan's Pub! I had visited Dublin and the Irish countryside with my parents in 2000 and we made our way to Gaughan's Pub in Ballina in County Mayo, only to find out that they were closed on this Sunday...boo hoo. I have since done research on Gaughan's Pub and found out it is owned by an Ed Gaughan, not my dad, and I also found out they no longer sell beer....what??? Oh well, we still want to visit. The problem is that we booked our trip over the Easter weekend and in Ireland....EVERYTHING is closed, including BARS and restaurants throughout the country on Good Friday and Easter Sunday and Monday things are not much better so we have made a smart decision to rebook the trip to May.
  • At the end of April our friends Andrew and Tracy from Philly are coming to visit and we plan to show them around Luxembourg and also to travel to Brugge, Amsterdam and Utrecht in the Netherlands. This will be a very fun trip.
May
  • We now plan to visit Dublin and other parts of Ireland at the end of May when things will be open!

June

  • At the end of the month we are taking a short flight to London to visit the city a bit more and also to see Bruce Springsteen and the Dave Matthews Band in Hyde Park!

01 February, 2009

A Saturday Afternoon Visit to Lambic Country




Since it turned out to be a nice Saturday, we took a little drive Northwest to just outside of Brussels to the heart of lambic country known as Payottenland. Our specific destination was to the Girardin lambic brewer and gueuze blender. Girardin is a family run operation on a farm that is really in the countryside down a bunch of roads that are two way roads but can barely take one car at a time!

Although we were not able to take a tour of the brewery as they are usually closed to the public unless you have a prior arrangement or a large group, we were able to visit their brewery store where they sell all their beers in bottles and they also sell 10 litre jugs of several different beers including jonge (young) lambic, oud (old lambic, kriek ( lambic with cherries) and faro (lambic with sugar). We were in line behind a couple who were purchasing about 3 cases worth of various Girardin beers.

I was on a mission to get a 10 litre jug of lambic and then a few bottles of beer as well. We were going over to a friends house that evening for dinner so a large jug of freshly made beer would be just perfect! Plus I can't drink such a large jug all myself.....

We were helped by a very nice older man who filled a jug up for us with jonge lambic straight from the barrel! We also bought 12 bottles in total of 4 different beers including faro, 2 different kinds of gueuze and some framboise (lambic with raspberries). Each bottle was about €1.50 ( a real steal of a price!) and the jug was €16 for 10 litres which works out to €1.60 a litre which is larger than an average wine bottle. The price was a fantastic deal but besides the price, getting a fantastic lambic beer right at the brewery and straight from the barrel can't be beat!

After our lambic haul, we took about a 20 minute drive to Liederkercke, Belgium to have lunch at De Heeren Van Liederkercke. Paula and I were here once together with my brother and Kelli came to visit and I also went once myself a few months back to lunch. They have wonderful Flemish food and a fantastic selection of Belgium beers, heavy on lambics and gueuze and vintage beers as well. The restaurant was empty when we got there but quickly filled up with locals that all seemed to know the owners. For lunch Paula had coq au beer (instead of coq au vin as this was a beer restaurant) and I had stoofvlees which is a nice beer stew type dish with frites! The highlight of the lunch for me was a 1992 bottle of Alexander Rodenbach which tasted fresh despite its age in the bottle.

Overall is was a nice afternoon in Belgium and we were back in Luxembourg before 5pm.